U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. William J. Mitchell, commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, takes off from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., in an F/A-18C Hornet. The squadron, commonly referred to as the “Death Rattlers” are headed to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) for the final F/A-18C deployment in 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s history. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

F/A-18 A-D Hornet


F/A-18 Hornet became the nation’s first all-weather fighter and attack aircraft and was designed for traditional strike applications such as interdiction and close air support without compromising its fighter capabilities. The F/A-18 A-D is employed in Marine Corps fighter attack squadrons and Marine Corps Reserve squadrons.

The Hornet demonstrated its capabilities and versatility early in its life cycle during Operation Desert Storm, wherein the aircraft shot down enemy fighters and bombed enemy targets within the same mission, proving its lethal effectiveness as a strike fighter. Hornets taking direct hits from surface-to-air missiles, recovering successfully, being repaired quickly, and flying again the next day further cemented the robustness and survivability of the aircraft.

The F/A-18 Hornet remains the workhorse of Marine Corps tactical aviation and supports operational deployments around the globe. It will serve as the Marine Corps’ primary bridging platform to the F-35 until its planned sundown in 2030.


The F/A-18 Hornet completed its first flight in 1978 and entered operational service with the Marine Corps in 1983 and the U.S. Navy in 1984. The Hornet replaced the F-4 Fantom and the A-7 Corsair.

The F/A-18A and C are single seat aircraft, while the F/A-18B and D are two seaters. The B model is primarily used for training, while the F/A-18A+ and C/D models are used for attack, tactical air control, and forward air control and reconnaissance missions. There have been several block upgrades to the Hornet for enhanced capabilities throughout the platform’s service life.

Production of C and D models ended in 2000, with the last delivery of an F/A-18D to the U.S. Marine Corps occurring in the summer of the same year. In April 2018, the U.S. Navy announced retirement of the F/A-18C from combat roles. F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet domestic aircraft entered its Post Production Support (PPS) phase in FY00. The Navy and Marine Corps continue to analyze Hornet manpower and sustainment requirements as the aircraft ages and approaches sundown.


Primary Function: Multi-role attack and fighter aircraft.
Contractor: Prime: McDonnell Douglas; Major Subcontractor: Northrop.
Date Deployed: November 1978. Operational - October 1983 (A/B models); September 1987 (C/D models).
Unit Cost: $29 million
Propulsion: Two F404-GE-402 enhanced performance turbofan engines. 17,700 pounds static thrust per engine.
Length: 56 feet (16.8 meters)
Height: 15 feet 4 inches (4.6 meters)
Wingspan: 40 feet 5 inches (13.5 meters)
Weight: Maximum Take Off Gross Weight is 51,900 pounds (23,537 kg).
Airspeed: Mach 1.7+
Ceiling: 50,000+ feet
Range: Combat: 1,089 nautical miles (1252.4 miles/2,003 km), clean plus two AIM-9s
Ferry: 1,546 nautical miles (1777.9 miles/2,844 km), two AIM-9s plus three 330 gallon tanks.
Crew: A, C and E models: One
B, D and F models: Two
Armament: One M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon; AIM 9 Sidewinder, AIM 7 Sparrow, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Harpoon, Harm, SLAM, SLAM-ER, Maverick missiles; Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW); Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); various general purpose bombs, mines and rockets.